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A Woman of Small Things

M. Mukundan

By V.K. Madhavankutty
DC Books, Delhi, 2014, pp. 104, Rs. 50.00


V.K. Madhavankutty’s expertise in the art of remembering is well-known. His new work in Malayalam, Asreekaram (Accursed) which is under translation into English, is no different, what with a bouquet of reminiscences and recollections of life in a village in Kerala unfolding into a poignant story: the saga of Kalyanikutty. While no thread of a story as such runs in Village Before Time (his earlier novel)—which is rather a dexterously blended mosaic of disjointed episodes and denouements—Accursed has a muscular storyline about it, rendering it organically strong. Accursed is all about the life and death of Kalyanikutty, narrated with care for economy of words—which is this author’s hallmark—which explains the thinness of the book, the fact that it talks about the whole life of a forsaken woman notwithstanding.   In Kerala, fiction, as a literary genre, presently witnesses a great deal of experiment both in the domain of narratives and themes. Admittedly, such a change helps the literature to enrich itself, introducing the ever-avid readers to new trends prevalent elsewhere, especially in Europe, and renewing the readers’ literary sensibility. However, the novel in the process at times loses its simplicity and seductive power, making the task of reading difficult. It is against this background that Accursed assumes importance. It is a simple novel, quite unpretentious. It doesn’t demand on the part of readers any special effort.   Also, a new trend much in evidence these days in Kerala is the shift of fictionscape towards urban milieus. More often than not, writers bring it upon themselves to write about life in cities. With uncontrolled urbanization, Kerala villages are fast disappearing one by one. The advent of consumer culture quickens the pace of this transformation. Brand new cars race along the dusty roads where not so long ago bullock carts slogged. As a result, the novel too, it seems, is moving away from rural life and its simplicity and earthiness.   Happily, Accursed redeems the forsaken village in Malayalam fiction. The novel is set in a rural milieu in South Malabar known for its cultural traditions and richness. Kalyanikutty was born in a traditional family where the matrilineal system—now moribund—was still in practice at that time. A family always needs a scapegoat for all its misfortunes. And Kalyanikutty happened to be the chosen one—a receptacle of curses of the family and the society at ...

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